John Clay's notes: Depth made a difference for Louisville that UK will enjoy next season

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistApril 10, 2013 

The Kentucky bench applauded UK's late run as the team played Mississippi State in Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012. UK won 73-64. Charles Bertram | Staff

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Random notes:

■ One definite advantage national champion Louisville had over NIT first-round loser Kentucky this season was depth. Not just on the playing floor but on the practice court.

Think practicing against Montrezl Harrell every day didn't make Chane Behanan better? Think Kevin Ware didn't push Russ Smith and Peyton Siva in practice? Think Stephan Van Treese bumping Gorgui Dieng in practice didn't make the center tougher?

Kentucky didn't have that this season. Not only did John Calipari not have a bench to use as a motivational tool, he didn't have viable players to push his starters in practice.

With (at least) eight freshmen coming in to join five holdovers, that should change in 2013-14.

■ The NCAA was scrambling Tuesday, saying it was ready to grant a waiver so that Louisville could fly its men's basketball team to New Orleans to support the U of L women in the championship game.

Originally, the NCAA said that Rick Pitino's offer to fly his team constituted "extra benefits."

The only extra benefit the NCAA is interested in is how much more money it can make — especially off of spectacles like the Final Four.

For example, the media workroom, which was in the Georgia Congress Center next door, was nearly a half-mile away from the court inside the Georgia Dome. That was so the NCAA could sell more corporate space to vendors and others.

■ Speaking of "extra benefits," it still grates on me that NCAA President Mark Emmert had friend James Carville sitting next to him at the NCAA's official game management table on the sideline at last year's Final Four championship night in New Orleans.

Now that's an "extra benefit."

■ I would say Louisville Athletics Director Tom Jurich is the early leader for Kentucky Sportsman of the Year.

■ Very impressed that Michigan Coach John Beilein owned up to a "coaching error" in not realizing that Louisville was in the bonus and wasting precious seconds before fouling near end of the title game.

"That one is on me," Beilein said.

■ By the way, Beilein seems far too normal to be a successful college coach.

■ Nerlens Noel was spotted wearing a lot of Adidas gear at the Final Four, where he was supporting boyhood friend and (now former) Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams.

■ SEC hoops update: Florida's Patric Young and LSU's Johnny O'Bryant are staying. Missouri's Phil Pressey and Alabama's Moussa Gueye are leaving. Gueye is transferring out of Tuscaloosa.

■ My guess is that the 14 percent increase in audience for the Louisville-Michigan championship game over last year's Kentucky-Kansas championship game had much to do with the Kevin Ware story, which received crossover publicity all week leading up to the game.

■ Rick Pitino wears Armani suits. Jeff Walz wears what Geno Auriemma called a "tablecloth" for a shirt. And yet both Louisville coaches reached the championship game.

■ The best part of the whole Final Four was in the wee hours of Monday night/Tuesday morning when Pitino told of giving his Hall of Fame jersey to sister-in-law Mary Minardi, whose husband was killed in 2002 when hit by a taxi in New York.

Billy Minardi's widow, Stephanie, moved to Louisville after her husband was killed on 9/11 and lives down the street from the Pitinos.

"Unlike Stephanie, who I've been able to be an uncle to her children, she lives four homes down, (Mary) had to work. She has no money," Pitino said, his voice choking up a little. "She has to work her tail off, raise three children, put them through college.

"I told her tonight, Mary, I'm not the Hall of Fame, you're the Hall of Fame. This is the most special thing that's happened to me personally and I want you to have it."

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com Twitter: @johnclayiv Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com

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